Tribeca Film Festival Short: Ponyboi
Ponyboi is the first narrative film by and starring an out intersex individual in cinema history. River Gallo and Sadé Clacken Joseph direct this live-action short capturing a charming young intersex man who turns tricks in the New Jersey laundromat where he works.
Ponyboi (River Gallo), an Intersex sex-worker, looks for love and to escape his seedy life in New Jersey. Through an encounter with the man of his dreams, Ponyboi discovers his worth.
Runtime: 19 minutes.
Too often these kinds of stories are told from filmmakers who have no personal basis in the subject, and while it’s possible for them to be done well, there’s a higher likelihood of them ringing false or coming across insensitive. The intersex community doesn’t have a lot of on-screen representation, and part of what makes Ponyboi so refreshing is that it’s an intersex representation made by an intersex man, about an intersex man.
The first thing that will instantly catch your eye about Ponyboi is the extremely rich cinematography from Madeline Leach. To a certain degree, Leach draws inspiration from 70s-style cinematography, which gives the film a nice visual style, full of naturalistic neon and vivid cityscapes. River Gallo and Sadé Clacken Joseph’s direction is tight and focused, creating a world that feels lived in and some images that will stick with you.
The story plays with the notion of dreams versus reality, and it blends character study elements and fantasy in an interesting way. To a large degree, it’s about finding what you feel you deserve, who you are and who you want to be. Its New Jersey setting in an interesting one given the story, as it tends to be full of homophobia and toxic masculinity, which adds an extra element of intrigue to the what is already a unique film.
Ponyboi is going to speak directly to its intersex audience, and its going to give outsiders a sensitive, complex, and human inside look into the life of an intersex man. The film has some powerful things to say, like being different is OK and that you can have anything you want as long as you feel you deserve it, and it gives the viewer not just a glimpse into what is probably an unknown world to many, but a lot to mull over as well.
Spearheaded by a strong performance from River Gallo, who gives Ponyboi a fragile vulnerability, with Keith Allen and Aaron Swartz giving excellent support, Ponyboi has the proper amount of pathos. Complete with believable characters living in a vividly realized world, the film offers something new in a very tight package.
Rating: 4 white Mustangs outta 5.
About The Filmmaker: River Gallo is a Salvadorian-American intersex filmmaker, actor, writer, model and advocate with interACT. He is a graduate of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts Experimental Theatre Wing and the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts MFA program. Ponyboi is his USC thesis. River was named one of the “Most Exciting Queer People to Follow in 2019” by Out Magazine and made PAPER Magazine’s list of “100 People Taking Over 2019”. He and Sadé Clacken Joseph co-founded Gaptoof Entertainment, a multi-media production house in Los Angeles, which focuses on intersectionality and creating inclusive spaces for POC, LGBTQIA+, and female narratives.
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